Thursday services for former St. Johns Co. sheriff

Published On: Jun 20 2012 03:53:51 PM EDT   Updated On: Jun 22 2012 04:59:41 PM EDT

A viewing for former St. Johns County Sheriff Neil Perry will be Wednesday afternoon and evening, with services on Thursday.

Perry died Wednesday after a prolonged illness. He was 67.

Visitation will be open from 3 to 8 p.m. Wednesday at Craig's Funeral Home, 1475 South Dixie Highway. The funeral will be held at 10 a.m. Thursday at Flagler Memorial Presbyterian Church at 32 Sevilla Street.

Due to a large turnout expected, the Sheriff's Office is advising of possible traffic delays and road closures in the area. Due to the funeral procession, delays should be expected on U.S. Highway 1 southbound between King Street and Lewis Point Road. Old Moultrie Road between Kings Estate and Lewis Point will be closed to traffic from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Perry was born in St. Augustine on May 19, 1945, and dedicated his life to his family and community. He began his law enforcement career as an auxiliary officer with the St. Augustine Police Department in 1968, and in 1974 became a member of the St. Johns County Sheriff's Office.

Perry served as a patrol deputy and detective until 1984, when he was elected sheriff of St. Johns County. He was subsequently re-elected four times, serving a total of five terms as sheriff, retiring in 2004. He remained a part of the SJSO family as a reserve deputy even after his retirement.

"Sheriff Perry was more than a role model," Sheriff David Shoar said. "He defined the role of law enforcement."

Earlier this week, the St. Johns County Commission voted to rename the St. Johns County Criminal Justice Complex the Neil J. Perry Criminal Justice Complex. There will be a formal dedication, with the installation of a sign, in the near future.

In addition to his law enforcement career, Perry also had a very distinguished military career. He joined the Florida Army National Guard in 1962, and during his 39-year career received many accolades, including the Army Commendation Medal, the Army Achievement Medal, the Meritorious Service Medal, the Florida Distinguished Medal, and the Florida Commendation Medal. He rose through the enlisted and officer ranks, retiring at the rank of colonel in 2001.

Shoar attributed his military and law enforcement success to Sheriff Perry, who mentored him for many years.

"A piece of our agency died today," Shoar said.

Perry graduated from St. Augustine High School, St. Johns River Community College, and went on to earn a bacherlor of arts degree from Nova University. He later graduated from the FBI National Academy, the FBI Criminal Justice Executive Institute's Chief Executive Course, and the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College.

During his tenure as sheriff, Perry served the county and state with distinction as chairman and past president of the Florida Sheriffs Association, chairman of the Florida Sheriffs Youth Ranches, chairman of the Commission on Florida Law Enforcement Accreditation, chairman and co-founder of the Florida Criminal Justice Executive Institute, chairman of the Northeast Florida Investigative Support Center, president of the Law Enforcement Private Security Council, and co-chair of the Northeast Florida Regional Domestic Security Task Force.

His service was not limited to the law enforcement profession; he was also committed to serving his community through civic involvement. He was a past president of Kiwanis Club, member of the Ashlar Masonic Lodge No. 98, a recipient of the Outstanding Young Law Enforcement Officer award given by the St. Augustine Jaycees, a recipient of the Lifetime Public Service Award given by the Democratic Woman's Club, chairman of the Friends of Scouting District Dinner, and a recipient of the prestigious Guardian De La Puerta Award given by the city of St. Augustine.

Perry's family was the backbone of his success, and along with his wife Syd, he enjoyed spending time with his children and grandchildren. Additionally, he earned the love and admiration of his "second" family, the employees of the St. Johns County Sheriff's Office, which said many owe the success of their own career to the mentoring and support of Perry.

Other members of the agency are reflecting on Perry's career and the guidance he provided in assisting so many in the furtherance of their careers.

"To state Neil Perry was a mentor is a gross understatement," said Undersheriff Joel Bolante. "He was a surrogate father to many of us at the agency. Personally, he shaped my adult professional and personal life."

"During my 34 years at the Sheriff's Office, I have grown to realize that my everyday actions are a result of the influence that Sheriff Perry has had on my life," said Director of Administration Susan Donlon.

Shoar brought up a simple but powerful lesson that Perry often emphasized to the law enforcement community: "Do the job the way it ought to be done; do the right thing, at the right time, for the right reason."